Lyonsden Blog

About Me

 

I’ve been interested in computers and gaming since the late 1970’s when my parents bought me and my sister our first games console. It was a Radofin Telesports IV and could play quite a few different cartridge based games – in colour! Graphics were very primitive and most games were ‘pong’ variants but it did have a few more interesting games. The Evil Knievel type one were you had to jump your ‘bike’ over an ever increasing number of ‘buses’ was a personal favourite with 9 year old me!

In the early 1980’s they bought us a Commodore Vic 20 for Christmas. This is the machine that started my love affair with computers that I still have to this day. Boasting a whopping 3.5K of RAM and 16 colours this was an impressive device at the time. I learned to program in BASIC and created all manner of games and utilities. It was something that really captured my imagination and educated me in a way that a NES or Master System could never have done. Of course I played games too, Gorf and Omega Race were fantastic. The Vic 20 also introduced me and my Dad to the joys of the text adventure game. It was blessed with several terrific Scott Adams adventures including; ‘The Count’, ‘Voodoo Castle’ and ‘Impossible Mission’ – experiences that I still remember today.

My next machine was a Commodore 64 – this time bought just for me as my sister had lost all interest in computers by this point. As much as I loved the Vic 20 the C64 was better in every way and so it was quickly cast aside by it’s more powerful sibling.  The graphics and sound were a huge improvement over the VIC and indeed the SID chip (responsible for the C64’s legendary music abilities) still sounds amazing today. Over the years I added many peripherals to it; A 1541-II Disk Drive, a 1520 Printer Plotter, a Currah Speech Synthesizer, A Dot Matrix printer and even Commodore’s  full-size Midi Keyboard and Sound Expander add-on. It was such a versatile machine I was still using it when I started University in the late 80’s where it helped me complete my assignments using Mini Office II.

Whilst I was still at Uni I finally found myself with enough money of my own to buy a computer myself. Naturally I gravitated straight towards Commodore’s new wonder machine – the Amiga. This machine really blew me away as it was so far ahead of it’s time. A built-in floppy drive, 4 channel stereo sound, 512K of RAM and a staggering 4096 colours!!! To put that into perspective I think the most a PC could muster at the time was 256 colours. The most amazing thing to me back then though was the multi-tasking. Being able to slide the ‘front’ screen down revealing the others ‘behind’ it running different programs was like magic. You could play a game whilst still having Wordworth, Deluxe Paint, Octamed and Workbench all running in the background. Back in the 1980’s this ‘pre-emptive multi-tasking’ was simply unheard of – no other computer had this ability.

The games it could play were simply incredible too. Titles like Lemmings, Syndicate and the early 3D games like Hunter and Archipelago entertained me like nothing had before. Games not only looked better but they now had the depth of gameplay to really suck you into their worlds and capture your attention. I was so smitten with this machine that I simply refused to use anything else right through most of the 1990’s. I upgraded a few times, to the Amiga 1200 and then to the beast that was the A4000. I equipped it with pretty much every expansion there was, including a 68060 accelerator, Picasso graphics card, Tocatta sound card, SCSI card, flatbed and film scanners and of course with the advent of the Internet a Supra 28.8k FaxModem. By the late 90’s I had to adapt to keep up with the trends at the time. Online banking (with custom software) became a thing – so I installed PC Task and Windows 3.1 on it so I could run the Barclays Internet banking software. It was quite sluggish but it worked perfectly. I used PhotoShop at work so wanted something similar at home. This was possible on the Amiga too with the aid of ShapeShifter which let me run MacOS 7.6 and PhotoShop like a charm. The two computers shared the same 68000 series CPU so this was an amazingly capable emulator. It also allowed me to run Mac games like Sim City 2000 and Marathon on it and they actually ran better than they did on most of the Macs around at that time thank to the Amiga’s faster 68060 CPU.

However by this time Commodore had been out of business for years. Despite all the upgrades I’d installed on my A4000 it eventually lagged way behind what the best PC’s of the day could offer. The internet was evolving rapidly but the software releases on the Amiga were stagnating and I couldn’t stay on the cutting edge any more. So I did what many had already done years before and bought myself a Windows 98 PC…

Fast forward to around 2015 and I had started to feel like computing and gaming had reached somewhat of a plateau for me. I had already dabbled with Apple Macs and didn’t really enjoy that experience. Long gone were the days where I could buy a new machine that offered a radically different experience from anything I’d had before. Maybe I had reached a ‘certain age’ too (my wife definitely thinks so!)  but I started to feel a strong draw back to these classic machines. Sadly I’d already sold most of the Amiga kit I’d amassed in order to pay for other things but I still had most of my Commodore 64 kit safely boxed up in storage. Amazingly most of it still worked when I unpacked it, even though it hadn’t been touched in 20 odd years! Since then I’ve been slowly trying to re-build my collection. Adding games and hardware that I used to own, some that I always wanted but couldn’t afford and even adding new stuff that didn’t even exist back in the day! Who knew there would still be a thriving C64 and Amiga scene over 30 years since they were launched!

 

My computer setups from left to right, C64, PC, Amiga 500, Raspberry Pi and Mac Mini running MorphOS.

 

About this site

 

I decided to create this site for a number of reasons. To record my adventures in obtaining/repairing and using old computers and tech, help catalogue my retro equipment and game collections and also to share projects, tips and ideas with other like-minded people. As time passes, information about these classic old machines is inevitably lost as the users that once treasured them have long since cast them aside. Often information that was once common knowledge decades ago has now become obscure or simply disappeared completely. I’d like to think that this site is helping to preserve some of that information and is helping others who share a similar interest in enjoying these devices in the 21st century.

This website is all my own work, warts and all. Every product featured or reviewed has been paid for out of my own pocket. All photos and artwork are my own too. The vast majority of the photos and videos have been taken with my phone camera which right now is a Huawei Mate 20 X. Tripod videos will have been taken with my Fujifilm X-T10 camera.

I don’t run this site for profit, I maintain it because I’m passionately interested in these old machines and I enjoy talking and creating content about them. Having said that, if you would like to show your appreciation for something I’ve created that has helped or entertained you then here’s my paypal.me link.

Any donations, no matter how small, would be greatly appreciated and would help with my hosting fees and to pay for site plugins/themes and other improvements. 🙂

Special Mentions

A big thanks goes out to Benjamin Wimmer who provided the code to produce the 3D box art used in my software collection pages. If you’d like to include some 3D boxes on your site then take a look at his Big Box Collection website.

Contact Me

 

If you’d like to get in touch for any reason at all please use the form below. Sorry I cannot put my email address on the site or I’ll be inundated with SPAM.

 

Last Updated: 5th March 2019

7 CommentsLeave a comment

  • hello!

    I just came across your awesome website today, and have found
    a ton of very useful information already, especially related to my
    beloved commodore-machines, C64 and the Amiga (500).

    In short, great articles, very well written, with really good explanations.
    I’m pretty sure that i’m gonna stop by frequently.

    Just wanted to say that, so, keep up your good work & best wishes!

    (pls excuse my somewhat funny english, its not my native language..)

    • Hi Ric,
      .
      Thanks very much for your kind words. It really means a lot to me to know that something I’ve written has proved useful/interesting to you.

      By the way, no need to apologise for your English, it’s great!

      All the best,

      Steven

  • Love all the info here. Im an Apple II guy. Just bought a vic-20 on ebay. What would you recommend for a SD type option? Multi-cart, sd, the new digital audio one on ebay? Please advise what you think what would be the best option to play some old games. Maybe mess with basic a bit. Thank you!

    • Hi Dan,

      To be honest most of the best games on the VIC came on cartridge. This was because it allowed them to overcome the 3.5K RAM limitation so they could provide better graphics and game designs. I highly recommend you pick up one of these devices: Penultimate Cartridge (there’s a link to the company selling them in the article). It’s packed with great games and even incorporates numerous RAM expansions and BASIC extensions too.

      If they didn’t come on cartridge then most games on the VIC were released on cassette tape (in the UK anyway) and will be available for download as .TAP files (these are basically just digital audio samples of the original tapes). Personally I prefer the digital tape type devices as they more faithfully mimic the original experience of using a VIC. There are quite a few variations of these Tapuino type devices on ebay that you’ve probably already spotted. Either search for ‘Tapuino’ or ‘Commodore digital tape deck’. Once plugged in the VIC will think these are real datasette devices and you can load a game with SHIFT + RUN/STOP as you would normally. Some of these devices are sold with a memory card pre-loaded with a ton of VIC software too which is a terrific option as it saves you the tedium of trawling the net for games. You can also save onto these devices too so if you write some BASIC programs you will be able to save them too.

      Have fun! 🙂

      Steven

  • I just found your post about the IDELED for A500 using my tiny board. Great article. Very ilustrated. Thanks for the review.

    Best regards,
    Edu.

  • Hi. You seem to have a reasonable 😉 VIC20 collection. Ages ago I wrote a (semi) commercial game in machine code called ‘Multibug’, a Centipede clone. I’ve been trying to hunt down a copy but to no avail. Would you happen to have a copy of that particular game?

    Thanks in advance.

    • Hi There,

      I’ve got quite a few centipede type games on the Vic including my personal favourite, Nightcrawler. Sadly I don’t ever recall having one called Multibug but I’ll keep an eye out for you. You say it was semi commercial – how was it released?

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